COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has issued a new executive order that will stop alcoholic beverage sales at restaurants and bars after 11 p.m. beginning Saturday.
“There are many of the young people in our state as well as around the country who seem not to be taking the virus as seriously as they should,” he said.
The executive order does apply to any holder of the following licenses: On-Premises Beer and Wine Permit, Winery Permit, Brewpub Beer/Wine Permit, Brewery Permit, Business Liquor by the Drink License, Non-Profit Private Club Liquor by the Drink License, Special Event Permit, or Special Non-Profit Event Permit.
The order does not apply to alcohol sold at convenience stores, grocery stores, wine and liquor stores and retail businesses.
“We know that young adults who are rapidly contracting the virus and spreading it into our communities frequently congregate in late-night atmospheres which simply are not conducive to stopping its continued transmission,” McMaster said. “This measured, carefully tailored approach will lessen the opportunity for South Carolinians to put themselves and their loved ones in harm’s way.”
McMaster called it “a very strong order” and a statewide mandate. It will remain in effect until further notice.
“One size does fit all in this situation about the service and sale of beer or alcohol after 11 p.m. and it can and will be enforced,” he said. “We have the state authority, the state power to enforce it.”
McMaster said they hope they will not have to take anyone’s license away but said the state is ready to enforce the order. He again addressed the possibility of a statewide mandate, saying state authorities could not enforce such a mandate.
“The state authorities cannot enforce a statewide mandate for masks on 5 million people,” he said. But an order prohibiting alcohol sales after 11 p.m. is within McMaster’s executive authority, he said.
The executive order will apply to approximately 8,000 of the 21,000 licenses that the state controls. Those 8,000 are “on-premise” licenses that allow people to buy and consume beer, wine or liquor on the premises. Restaurants and bars who violate the order are subject to the suspension of their beer, wine or liquor licenses, McMaster said.
The order would not prohibit restaurants and bars from serving food after 11 p.m.
“It’s time for our younger adults to behave like mature adults,” McMaster said. “This is very serious, wear your mask, keep that distance, wash your hands. Be careful.”
When asked about schools, the governor said the state does plan to open schools this fall.
“People have to go to work, parents have to go to work, teachers want to go to work, everybody wants to get to school started,” he said. “But we have to be sure that we’re doing so safely.”
The most recent reports from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control on Thursday showed 1,723 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases statewide past the 50,000-mark, at 50,548.
The total number of South Carolinians who have died from COVID-19 stands at 898, DHEC says.
McMaster’s news conference comes after a 10 a.m. news conference in Charleston in which state Sen. Marlon Kimpson called for the shutdown of certain businesses to help slow the increasing pandemic.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.